Cat fleas and other parasites on the prowl this spring
February 14, 2022
With warmer temperatures and pets outside more in spring, parasitic problems can start to ramp up. Your cat cannot avoid all parasites but can be protected from them and believe us when we say, prevention is so much better than cure.
Our Staines-upon-Thames nursing team have some advice below for cat owners in Middlesex on which parasites to be more aware of this spring.
Why not come and talk to Travel Vet’s nurses about the right combination of ongoing flea and worm treatments for your cat?
Fleas are tiny 2-3mm long, blood-sucking parasites that are common in the environment. They are dark brown/black, oval-shaped critters with legs, that grow and turn a lighter colour the more blood they ingest. They excrete a mixture of blood and waste, leaving tiny specs of ‘flea dirt’ behind.
Fleas can jump up to 100 times their body length onto ‘hosts’ e.g. cats, dogs, rabbits, mice etc. Fleas can live up to one year and females can lay up to 50 eggs per day. Around 95% of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae live in the environment (including your home) and not on pets. Fleas can carry diseases and will irritate your cat, other pets, and your human family.
Six common signs your cat has fleas:
- You can see them moving about
- Flea dirt (looks like tiny dark specs) – common around the tummy and groin
- Your cat is scratching excessively
- Bold or sore patches, red irritated skin, spots, or scars from scratching
- Thickened skin in areas such as the edges of the ears
- Members of your human family have unexplained bites
Travel Vet’s nurses advise that if your cat has fleas you will need to act fast, treating your cat, other pets, and your home to eradicate them. Ask our team about cat flea treatments.
The most common types of intestinal worms that affect cats of all ages are tapeworms and roundworms. Quite often cats won’t show symptoms of having worms until there is a heavy burden of them causing weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, irritation around the bottom area, and a failure to thrive. Some cats may appear constantly hungry but do not put on weight.
- Roundworms – eggs are passed through cat faeces and can remain viable in the environment for several years. Cats might eat eggs from the environment or eat mice and rats who have eaten the eggs and become intermediate hosts.
- Tapeworms – eggs are released from these long flat worms into their host and look like grains of rice in the faeces, around your cat’s bottom and/or in their bed. Intermediate hosts tend to be mice and fleas, which cats eat or ingest when grooming.
- Hookworms – can damage the intestinal lining and cause anaemia, bleeding, and weight loss, but are thankfully rare in the UK. Eggs are eaten from a contaminated environment, or a ‘host’ is eaten. Their larvae can also burrow into your cat’s skin.
Ticks on cats
Ticks are more common in certain areas of the country and generally become more active in warmer months. They tend to live in long grass and fields where livestock graze. Like fleas, they jump onto their hosts and attach their mouthparts to suck blood, growing as they feast. Ticks are particularly dangerous as they can transmit Lyme disease and jump onto humans and other pets too.
Travel Vet’s nurses advise that if you notice your cat scratching or over-grooming in one area, you should check them for ticks (and fleas). You may feel a small bump under your cat’s skin before you see these tiny critters. It is important to remember that ticks need to be twisted and pulled out slowly using a special tick remover; pulling a tick straight out can leave the head in and increase the risk of disease transmission.
Effective parasite protection
When it comes to preventative tick, flea, and worm treatments for cats, many over-the-counter brands are not effective. The best protection comes from putting your cat on a regular programme of vet-recommended parasite treatments, rather than a one-off treatment when a problem occurs.
Book an appointment with our experienced nurses who can talk to you about the best combination of treatments for your cat, which you can get from our Spout Lane North practice.